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How Trail’s Travel Center Is Defining Its Business Online And Why You Should Too

Posted in: Truckstop Business, The NATSO Show, Marketing & Retail

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For two and a half days, the industry gathers to find knowledge, solutions and connections at The NATSO Show. Just like The NATSO Show, The NATSO Show Magazine is your source for improving your travel plaza business operations. Unlike The NATSO Show it is year-round. 

How Trail’s Travel Center Is Defining Its Business Online And Why You Should Too

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When you’re stuck in the throws of the day’s latest drama, it’s hard to remember that your truckstop is being judged anywhere other than the here and now, but that’s just not the case. It’s difficult to believe that your truckstop exists anywhere other than the large patch of dirt next to the highway, but operators have begun to realize that their truckstop exists separately on the Internet.

One such operator, Dustin Trail of Trail’s Travel Center in Albert Lea, Minnesota, spoke to his experience in the online world at The NATSO Show. Dustin shared insight from his yearlong journey in taking control of Trail’s Travel Center’s online presence and the possible impact it’s had on his travel center. 

Dustin explained that every truckstop is different until you let your customer define your business online and then your location becomes more than just another patch of pavement with pumps.  

You know better than that and so do we, but it doesn’t matter if you don’t take control of your digital presence because your customer may not know that if they are online comparing you to another location down the street. 

From your landscaping to the cleanliness of your bathrooms, you control how potential customers perceive you in the real world, so why not in the virtual world?  

Dustin’s virtual efforts to control the perception of his location cover everything from claiming his business at virtual outposts like Yelp and Google Local -- allowing him to share information such as operating hours -- to providing a 360 degree virtual walk-through of his location so his potential customers know what to expect when deciding to stop.

Trail’s Travel Center’s web traffic increased every month, but you may ask: why do I care? Its fuel sales, non-fuel sales, customer counts and several other metrics went up anywhere from 1 to 12 percent year-over-year. While Dustin has not performed a formal study to show causation, the crowd agreed that more web traffic certainly wasn’t hurting his business. 

In explaining how he curated his business for potential customers, Dustin shared some advice that I’ll expand on in future blog posts, including:

  • Take control of your virtual presence, as it will impact real world perception of your location and vice versa.

  • Use analytics to gain insight on the real world behavior of your customer based on their digital behavior.

  • Know your intended customer and tailor your digital efforts to them as different platforms have different audiences.

  • Anything in the real world can drive traffic to your virtual presence, so it’s important to always have accurate, quality content online.

  • You would not overextend yourself in your location, so do not do it online by maintaining virtual presences that you cannot sustain.

  • It took time to build your truckstop and it will take time to build it online, so plan accordingly.

Photo Credit: Chuck Fazio/NATSO

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About the Author

Taryn Brice-Rowland

Taryn Brice-Rowland

Taryn Brice-Rowland supports the objectives of all NATSO departments by collecting, organizing and sharing data and information, and by managing data and information systems and technologies.